Karen McMahon: How to Set Boundaries and Navigate High Conflict Divorce

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Episode Description

Karen McMahon understands the challenges of high-conflict divorce. After surviving her own divorce from an emotionally abusive ex-husband, Karen turned to coaching others on how to deal with the complex emotions and dynamics of high-conflict divorce and co-parenting more effectively.

In this podcast episode, Karen describes how she helps her clients build confidence, establish boundaries, and remain focused on their own healing and emotional growth. She also explains how, with proper support,  a parent can use the pain of a high-conflict divorce to fuel positive growth for themselves and their family.

Karen's insight will help anyone dealing with a high-conflict situation manage their emotions and build resilience in the process.  Karen's advice provides hope and perspective for anyone dealing with a high-conflict spouse or former spouse.

Show Notes

About Karen

In the realm of divorce and relationship coaching, Karen emerges as a true luminary, specializing in the complex arena of high conflict divorce. With unwavering determination and a heart full of empathy, Karen's expertise shines brightest when guiding individuals through the tumultuous storms of high conflict situations. Her signature approach addresses the internal intricacies of intense emotions, fixed mindset and unconscious behaviors along with external complexities of legal approaches, financial awareness and co-parenting hurdles, ensuring that her clients emerge both victorious and transformed.

Connect with Karen

You can connect with Karen on her LinkedIn page at Karen McMahon on Facebook at Karen McMahon and her Facebook business page at Journey Beyond Divorce.  You can find Karen on YouTube at Journey Beyond Divorce, follow Karen on Instagram at Journey_Beyond_Divorce

And learn more about Karen’s work on her website Journey Beyond Divorce.  The best way to contact Karen is through Instagram or email her at [email protected].

Key Takeaways From This Episode with Karen

  • Karen McMahon specializes in coaching people through high-conflict divorce. She focuses on helping clients heal and transform themselves amidst the pain of divorce and shares her own experience going through a traumatic divorce. She says it was the most difficult but also most transformative experience of her life.
  • In high conflict relationships, the difficult spouse's behavior is obvious, but the other spouse often doesn't look at their own unhealthy behaviors and coping mechanisms. Karen helps them focus on themselves, set boundaries, and heal amidst the pain of divorce.
  • Karen explains that no one can "make" you feel something - you choose how to react. Taking responsibility for your feelings is empowering.
  • Boundaries are critical in high-conflict relationships but need to be learned as a skill. Karen does a Boundary Bootcamp to teach people how to set and uphold boundaries. Boundaries are saying what's acceptable to you. They must be clearly set and then upheld.
  • There are different types of high-conflict spouses besides just the boundary crosser. Karen gives examples like anger issues, narcissism, bipolar disorder. Even difficult people have trauma and are neurodiverse, not evil.
  • Karen discusses custody concerns when a co-parent seems unsafe. Going back to court can help but also risks more conflict. Supporting kids' boundaries and emotional intelligence is key.
  • Removing your "armor" and not accepting every fight invitation post-divorce is important. Use pain as fuel to raise great kids and break generational dysfunction.

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Karen McMahon:  How to Set Boundaries and Navigate High Conflict Divorce

Karen McMahon


high conflict divorce, setting boundaries


Karen Covy, Karen McMahon

Karen Covy Host: 0:10

Hello and welcome to off the fence, a podcast where we deconstruct difficult decision making, so we can discover what keeps us stuck, and more importantly, how we can get unstuck and start making even tough decisions with confidence. I'm your host, Karen Covy, a former divorce lawyer, mediator and arbitrator turned coach, author and entrepreneur. And now without further ado, let's get on with the show. With me today is Karen McMahon. And in the realm of divorce and relationship coaching, Karen emerges as a true luminary specializing in the complex arena of high conflict divorce, with unwavering determination and a heart full of empathy. Karen's expertise shines brightest when guiding individuals through the tumultuous storms of high conflict situations. Her signature approach addresses the internal intricacies of intense emotions, fixed mindset and unconscious behaviors, along with the external complexities of legal approaches, financial awareness, and co-parenting hurdles, ensuring that her clients emerge both victorious and transformed. Karen, I am so excited to have you here. Welcome to the show.

Karen McMahon Guest: 1:28

Thanks for having me, Karen. What a great introduction. I appreciate that.

Karen Covy Host: 1:33

My pleasure. I mean, it's well deserved. And I'd like to start with you, as Simon Sinek says, with your why, why high conflict divorce because as we both know, this is one of the toughest areas of divorce to tackle. So why coach people through high conflict divorce? What's your why?

Karen McMahon Guest: 1:55

Yeah, you know, I started my business as a divorce coach. And over the course of time, I realized that high conflict divorce has so many complexities, both internal and external. And me and my team are so experienced that we decided let's pivot and really support those who are struggling the most. Because those of us in high conflict marriages and divorces tend to also have issues of codependence people pleasing, and we're the ones who try to control the storm. And so it's like you're on a sailboat, and you can grab the sail to go where you want, or you can grab the wind were the ones who grabbed the wind. And so when you're in a high conflict marriage, your high conflict spouse's behavior is so obviously difficult, that you don't even look at your own. And so our desire is to really help people keep the focus on themselves to heal and grow through a process. That's just, it's painful. So use the pain as fuel to transform yourself so that when you emerge, you're a better version, you're free, and you're a better version of yourself, and you can be a better parent.

Karen Covy Host: 3:21

That sounds amazing. And I noticed you said, when we are in high conflict marriages, and I happen to know a little of your backstory, would you mind sharing it with the audience so they understand where you're coming from?

Karen McMahon Guest: 3:37

I mean, I've heard so many heartbreaking stories over the years. And mine was one of them. I was in a short marriage. We were married maybe 10 years before I started or even eight years before I started working on air and divorce. And so my ex-husband had anger management issues. The words that were spoken to me were so mean and nasty and hurtful. I couldn't shower hot enough for long enough to, like, get it off. My divorce was three and a half years. My children were four and six. When I told them I am leaving Daddy, I took full responsibility because I knew I'd get thrown under the bus. CPS was involved four times the police came to the house, there was an order of protection I was in. I was a fully commissioned salesperson. I was a working mom and I lost all of my business because I was emotionally devastated. I had my one only panic attack where I thought I was having a heart attack. And I lived in the attic for three and a half years and it was it was a hellacious journey that was also the most transformative gift of my life. What

Karen Covy Host: 4:55

I mean, obviously that's that sounds like a con looked at terms, hellacious experience and a transformative gift. How did you get to the place where you could look at the worst experience of your life and see that it was really a gift?

Karen McMahon Guest: 5:14

Yeah, you know, emerging from it. And on our journey beyond divorce podcasts, we have a series called Voices of celebration, which are all of our clients over the years who entered like me resistance, scared, thinking it was the worst thing in the world and emerged feeling renewed and transformed. And so when I emerged from my divorce, in 2006, when I finally left the attic and had my own place, I remember calling my best friend and saying, I am so pleased with the human being I have become that if someone said I had to do it all over again, to be where I am today, I would do it on a dime.

Karen Covy Host: 6:00

Wow, that's amazing.

Karen McMahon Guest: 6:03

You know, I have a business partner, Lisa Brick, and she was raised in a conscious household. So consciousness intentionality was her life. I was a fairly sleepwalking individual until I slammed into my broken marriage and really began doing the work. That for me, one of the biggest gifts was I went to Al Anon. And Al Anon is all about keep the focus on yourself. Like, don't clean their side of the street don't cross to their side of the street, you focus on you, you do you. And that's one of the foundational tenants of journey beyond divorce. But it was such a gift. Because it's so easy when the when your spouse is high conflict, it is so easy to be like he this and she that and like you can, you can sing their shortcomings, right and their faults until the cows come home. And how many people and I'll say this and then stop, there's the divorce rate is higher in second and third marriages, because so many people think I've divorced the problem. I'll get on with my life. And then they rinse and repeat. And then they say, why does this keep happening to me? When in fact, they didn't do the work to make sure that they found someone different. So they ended up with the same person in a different body.

Karen Covy Host: 7:31

Yeah, that is so true. You and I have both seen it many, many times. And yet, it's really hard when you're in a situation that is abusive to you to focus on your own side of the street and not on what's being done to you. Right. How do you help people change their mindset around? It's being done to me versus it's being done for me or I'll work with what's being done to me and make it something different?

Karen McMahon Guest: 8:03

Yeah, it's  not an either or it's a yes. And yes, you're experiencing abuse? Yes, their behavior is displeasing. It is unacceptable. Yes, yes, yes. And let's look at what you brought to the table. Because Healthy People don't end up in relationships with high conflict individuals, unhealthy individuals end up in relationship with high conflict individuals. So the high conflict individual, and this is the other thing I like to say is like, you know, in today's day and age, everyone's an evil narcissist. And I just, I don't I don't play that game. high conflict. Individuals have mental health issues. And they have, and they have trauma. And so there's all types of neuro diversity going on. And so whether you're a narcissist or you have borderline personality, bipolar, OCD, 100 other things. Human beings in this world who have mental illness are not the evil scourge of the world. They may be displeasing to be an intimate relationship with, and that's where boundaries come in. And what I am, what I encourage my clients is when they come to us, they usually feel understandably out of control. Divorce is out of my control. Everything's out of my control, he or she is out of my control. And we get to say, actually, there's something in your control. That's a game changer. Would you like to know what it is? And would you like to focus on it? Because you can feel uber empowered going through your divorce? If you focus on this thing that's in your control? What is it? It's you?

Karen Covy Host: 9:40

Yeah, and I think if I'm hearing you correctly, one of the things that is part of you are not part of you are bound boundaries, right. And for people who are in those relationships with a high conflict person, oftentimes boundaries are one of their biggest challenges because as you mentioned, they're codependent. So if you could share with the audience a little bit about what boundaries are and why there's such a problem in a high conflict relationship.

Karen McMahon Guest: 10:10

Yeah. And before I get into that, I do want to say, as you're listening to this episode, I want you to put on like a helmet of self-compassion and gentle kindness toward yourself. Because even as I say, like, you know, we were wounded coming in. Whether you resonate with being codependent, or a people pleaser, or a perfectionist, these are things that these are coping mechanisms that we created as children in our family. And most families have some dysfunction Mine, mine was an alcoholic dad and a rageaholic. Mom, and very, very young, right. So like, when I think of how young they were, it's like scary that they had three people that they were raising. But, but we don't lick it off the grass, we don't make it up. It's not our fault. We learn coping mechanisms to be in these dysfunctional families. And then as we become adults, the very coping mechanisms that protected us that created our codependence and our people pleasing protected us, we intuitively as children knew how to protect ourselves, those same coping mechanisms are going to lead you into dysfunctional and unhealthy relationships, we need to shed that armor and create healthy coping mechanisms and boundaries. I guarantee you, I've yet to meet a client who wasn't good at boundaries, who grew up in a household with boundaries. It's like if you can't play a musical instrument, because you didn't grow up with one that makes sense. If you didn't grow up with boundaries, you're not going to understand what they are, what the value of them are, or how to use the skill of boundaries in a valuable way.

Karen Covy Host: 12:02

So what could you share with our listeners if they think? Well, first of all, let's dial this back a little bit and say, let's say you're in a high conflict, marriage, a high conflict, divorce, a high conflict co-parenting situation, whatever it is, there is a lot of conflict. How do you How can you identify whether or not you have a boundary issue?

Karen McMahon Guest: 12:27

How can you identify a boundary issue?

Karen Covy Host: 12:30

Yeah, what if there's somebody listening that says, you know, I don't know if this is me or not? What would you say? How can they figure it out? Right,

Karen McMahon Guest: 12:37

The idea of a boundary is there's internal boundaries that aren't often spoken about. And so if you're trying to control your displeasing spouse, you have a boundary issue, because you're, you're right there, you've got a boundary issue. If you find that you need protection from your spouse, because of their verbal, physical, emotional, financial control, you have a boundary issue. And if you are sitting there, and you're going, I have tried, I have told her not to do this. I have told him that I don't like that. And they just don't listen, you have a boundary issue, right? And you just don't know you're getting there, but you don't know. And so boundaries are this two-step dance, you set a boundary and you uphold a boundary. So let's talk about the internal boundary first, because I think that this is so fundamental to every relationship wherein, Karen So how often do you hear someone say, you make me feel all the time? Well, I only did that because you did that, that you made me do it. Unless someone has a gun to your head. Nobody makes you feel nobody makes you do you feel what you feel. And you do what you do. But to own that, like that's the first part and I get pushback all the time. It's like, when he said X, Y and Z to me, he absolutely made me feel unworthy. Well, no, he didn't. Because he could say the same XYZ to someone who grew up in a healthy household who has strong self-esteem. And that person would go wow, that's nasty. Either you're having a bad day, or this is the way you behave. But either way, it's unacceptable to me, and they wouldn't feel anything, they wouldn't be devastated or hurt. And so our feelings come from our life history, and how we navigated things and again, that family of origin and so on a very fundamental level. Talk about empowerment, when you can say nobody makes me feel and nobody makes me do I have full and complete agency over my emotions and my behavior. We are already in a new neighborhood. We are already in. We are building self-care. confidence, self-esteem certainty of ourselves like that's a beautiful thing. Does that make sense?

Karen Covy Host: 15:06

Yeah, it makes total sense. But I'm just putting myself in the position of the client. Right? Not that I've ever had boundary issues myself, of course. But, you know, when you say, but, but he did that to me I, you know, or she did that to me. And it's not right. It's not fair, how come I'm the one who has to change when they're the one with the problem? What would you say to that?

Karen McMahon Guest: 15:35

You don't have to change, you could decide to be just the way you are, it probably won't serve you and you're not changing him or her, no matter what you do. You're not controlling that. So you could do that you could grab it, the wind, as long as you're sailing and hope you get from point A to point B, chances are if you grab that sale, you're going to be a lot more effective.

Karen Covy Host: 15:57

That is so powerful. I love that. I totally love that. And, you know, I know that the boundary crossing spouse is one type of a high conflict spouse. But there's a lot of different types of high conflict spouses, right? And if we could just give, give our listeners a couple of examples of different versions of high conflict spouses, because maybe somebody says, Well, I don't think that's me, or I'm not sure if that's me, but my spouse does blah, blah, blah, blah. And is this a high conflict situation? You know, do I need extra help?

Karen McMahon Guest: 16:38

Yeah, and  the truth is, we need boundaries in our healthy relationships, I have a 25 and 27 year old that neither of them are high conflict. They're 25 and 27. They're gorgeous, sometimes and challenging others, but I raised them with boundaries. And so actually just was it yesterday, my daughter was here. And she opened my office door. And she needed to know where the tweezer was. And I was on. I was on a business call. And I just looked at her and I was like, close the door plays. And that's it. That's it. And so learning how to set boundaries is great because it teaches us where's my limit? That's unacceptable. You know, okay, if you fell, and you were bleeding, and you need my help, I might, I might stop my business meeting and help you but not to help you find my tweezers. So so. So I want to say that boundaries aren't about high conflict. But let's give a couple of examples of situations where a boundary would be valuable. And I do a boundary boot camp. I do a one-week boundary boot camp when we talk about those internal boundaries we talk about. Yes. And saying yes. Only when you mean it and not saying when you don't mean it. Oh, that one's big. We talk about know how wishy washy is your know that you're always getting planted? Well, I don't really think but you know, I guess if you really need but. And then it's like they blew my boundary down? Well, your boundary was like this ready to blow down. It was like this broken fence. Right? And then there's one of the big ones you and I deal with is digital communication. I used to get three page long, scathing emails, and I would read them. It's like, why are you reading it? Well, it might be something important on page two, paragraph three, line six for like four words. So I have to read all of this and absorb the abusive, condescending, belittling demeaning, I'm going to I'm going to I'm going to take all of that in here all by myself in my protected space. I'm choosing not to have a boundary, there are boundaries for that really, really healthy boundaries for that.

Karen Covy Host: 19:02

But what would you say to that person who says, Look, I'm in the middle of high conflict litigation? What if that on page two, paragraph three, line six or whatever, there's a couple of words. And then now if I don't read them, and I don't know that information, my spouse and go into court and say, Oh, but I told her blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, whatever it was, or I told him, whatever it was, right? What do you say to that person?

Karen MMahon Guest: 19:27

Well, so so that that is the biggest fear, the fear is the judge the powers that be are going to deem you a bad parent because you haven't absorbed all of the abusiveness from your ex, and it's just not true. And so you set the boundary and all of this is in my boot camp, and it's like so you communicate what's acceptable, and you communicate that in this particular case. You know, I've noticed there's been a lot of unnecessary criticism in your emails. So if you have something to tell me about little Johnny, I suggest you share it without commentary. I did not read your email, and I will not read any going forward. Now you have in writing something very specific for the judge to see. But Judge, you see, here's four examples of his or her three-page nasty emails, here's my response, explaining, I'd love to know, their concerns just devoid of the nastiness. And what judge is gonna go, you foolish woman, you foolish man, you have to sit there and read all of that, like, and when you start thinking that that's the case. That's part of your stuff to work on. That's your challenges to work on. And the same thing with text, the spouse who or the ex who blows up your phone all day, I'm at work. I'm taking care of the kids. I'm busy, I'm doing things. Why don't you answer me within 30 seconds?

Karen Covy Host: 21:00

And it's like,what would you say though? If the X the spouse who's blowing up your phone has the kids, right? And then you're worried that what if he's texting that or she's texting that little Johnny just fell down and broke his arm and they're going to the ER and you missed it? Because you don't want to look at the text?

Karen McMahon Guest: 21:19

Because you have an agreement saying should there be any emergencies, we will call each other or whatever that whatever the agreement so they don't listen to it. So now you're gonna get in trouble from the judge because little Johnny fell down and ended up in the emergency room and dad who constantly sends her mom who constantly sends all these nasty texts. sent one that was important. Well, here's the other thing. This actually happened to me. My son fell, broke his arm, I was upstate, I was in a relationship. My ex blew up my phone, I shut it down. And he was like, I can't believe and I said, you're a parent. You took him to the emergency room. He got his arm casted. What did I need to come home for what exactly was the emergency that I needed to come home for? I called my son I made sure he was okay afterwards. But it's so interesting. It's like how normal healthy human beings, if you were married, and you were you were someplace else and your spouse was with the kid when they got hurt and they haven't go to the emergency room, you think go to the emergency room. I've been in the emergency room dozens of times with my kids, you take care of it, you go home, you let the other spouse know what's going on. This is a situation where when you're constantly you, when you believe that you have to be at the beck and call of your ex who you've divorced now, because of their behavior. That's your choice. And I'm not I'm not gonna I'm not going to force anyone. It's like, do what you want. But if it's not working for you, there's a better way.

Karen Covy Host: 23:03

Well, let me let me play devil's advocate for a moment. Let me say Alright, so I'm the, the spouse, right, and my phones blowing up. And I don't trust that my ex or my spouse, whatever he is, at the moment that he will take the kid to the emergency room that he will do the right thing. I am concerned from the safety of my child. Now what do you say? So the scenario is the child got hurt, child got hurt with my ex or my spouse, I don't have confidence in his ability to properly care for the child. Now, what do I do? And the phones blowing up?

Karen McMahon Guest: 23:47

So I would say, you know, it's an interesting thing, Karen, the first thing I would do is challenge the, my client, really So your ex is so bad that your child could need medical care, and they wouldn't get it? And if they say yes, then then we would have another conversation about custody and how true that is and what their other options are. Because if that's true, if it's true that you feel like your child could literally need for instance, medical assistance and be ignored, then we do have we have a more serious conversation to have. And that's a really important conversation to have. So many of us have to and so we're kind of going into the co-parenting now. So many of us have to make decisions. I thought my ex could not co parent because he really didn't parent I worked full time I was the main person taking care of the kids as parents took care of the kids. He was like the last one to take care of the kids. And so I thought well, you can't get up in the morning. You can't get them to school on time. You can't do homework because you've never done these things. He was able to do it all did he do it my way. No Oh, do I think he did a great Maybe? Maybe not. So that's one level, but you're talking about something else. And my ex is, you know, he's fairly up there. I never worried that he would like, let my kids be hurt. He could abandon them emotionally under his roof. He did that for years, they felt emotionally abandoned. That's something that we coach around and we support people to figure out well, how are you going to handle this? And how do you support your kid, my kids would call me all the time, I would coach them through what was going on. There were ways that I could help them. I couldn't change the custody, it wasn't bad enough, you're describing something that that's bad enough, if that's what you're dealing with, that then needs to be addressed with their therapist with perhaps going back and asking your attorney what the possibilities are. So that one I think, is I understand you're doing devil's advocate. But I think that's also a really important example of now that's a red flag that we need to really address.

Karen Covy Host: 26:03

Yeah, and I think that, you know, it's important for people to hear these conversations that nothing is black and white, right? Everything is somewhere in between. and can it's how you look at it, how you see it, how you interpret it, the challenge that I see coming from the legal background is that the level of we'll call it abuse or bad behavior, or whatever you want to call it has to rise to the point of serious endangerment, before many judges are able to do something. So if you've got that sort of, you know, like this is going to be, it's going to hurt the kid. I mean, if they don't get their arm casted right away, maybe it needs to be re broken. I mean, we'll just go with this example. Whatever the situation is, but And the other problem with the court system is something has to happen, bad, something bad has to happen first. And then the court can react to it and say, Okay, now we will step in, this is not okay, you're not going to be able to do this again to this child. However, when the parent sees this coming, and they said, I don't want my child to have to be hurt first, before something can be done. What do you say to that parent?

Karen McMahon Guest: 27:17

Well, you know, I mean, I had this situation, I'm really wanted to go back to court and fight for custody. And there was there wasn't there was never physical abuse, not with me, not with my kids, but there was pretty severe emotional and verbal abuse. And I remember, my therapist and my son's therapist saying, if you get between your kids and their father, right now, they're going to defend dad, because that's one of their parents, and we all do it. And then, you know, you're putting yourself you can't put yourself between them and dad until they ask you to. And so it was one of the hardest things it was a couple of years. And I remember talking to both of my kids and asking them on numerous occasions, like if you're struggling that much, and you want my support, I'll go back to court. But and this is the danger. In New York at 14 a child could actually be spoken to by the judge and go before the court. And the thing is, how many kids coming from abuse are going to open their mouth and verbalize that their parent is abusive. And so I learned and I'm not saying My opinion is right here. But I learned that the bigger picture was, if I can be the healthiest version of my health, self, help my children with boundaries, use every upset every struggle that they have as an opportunity to teach them emotional intelligence, awareness, boundaries, how to verbalize there's a saying and 12 Step say what you mean. But don't say it mean. And I would say I do not care what your father says to you what he calls you How despicable or disrespectful he is, and this was my this was my line and it still is to my kids don't ever let somebody else's bad behavior determine yours. You do not speak to him disrespectfully, you do not behave disrespectfully. But you protect yourself. So don't lower yourself to somebody else, somebody else's behavior and, and so I chose not to go back to court because they were never quite there. And I chose to support them where they were. Now there are worse situations where you have to go back to court and you have to fight for custody. And they think that in the realm of boundaries, the court can be a boundary. The court can be something that you use as a tool, but you have to be very careful. You have to make sure it's a great time to talk to a coach right Karen. Like it Here's what I think is utterly endangering my kid really endangering my kid. Let me let me talk to a therapist a coach, let me get a sounding board, not my not my loved one, my best friend, my sister who's going to be like, hell yeah, let's go to court, not someone who doesn't understand someone who could really help up support like, is this endangering the child to a point where it's worth going back to court and supervised visitation, change of visitation, whatever?

Karen Covy Host: 30:30

Well, and I would add to that, not only whether it's worth going to court, but what's the outcome of going to court likely to be right? Because what you think may be really seriously endangering your child may be very different from what a judge or a lawyer thinks, right. And it's not even what you think it's what you can prove. And the challenges for so many people, the only one who can prove the abuse is the child. And is the judge going to put the child on the witness stand, and is the child if they're on that witness stand, even if they're just in chambers, with the judge alone with a court reporter? Is the child really going to speak the truth to the judge that he or she will speak to you or another parent? It's hard, I mean, people to your point, people forget, I mean, your children are products of both parents, for better or for worse, and they want to protect the other parent.

Karen McMahon Guest: 31:31

And for most of us emerging from high conflict marriages, we didn't have the boldness to stand up to that bullied for so long. And now we're going to expect our little person to and so there are times when you have to go there. And I've supported people in doing that. I would say many, many, many more times, people consider the path and coach through it and decide that there's a better way of supporting their kids than putting the kid through that. And maybe it not even going the way that they're hoping for and then creating, you know, additional conflict and challenges. 100%

Karen Covy Host: 32:15

100% I mean, the court system, by definition, lives on conflict, right? It's one person versus another person. That's the way this system is set up. So to think that you're going to use the court system to dial down the conflict is perhaps unrealistic.

Karen McMahon Guest: 32:33

You know, and I think that there's another thing like, you don't have to accept every invitation to a fight that, you know, that you're invited to. And I think that teaching our children that and us deciding that. So another 12 step that I lived by was how important is it? And I'd be like, it's not that important. Next, I just I just, I have to decide what are the things that I'm willing to fight with this man on? For my kids sake, or work, or whatever? And what am I not. And I think that when you've been in a high conflict, marriage, and a high conflict, divorce, one of the things like really encourage people when the divorce is over, it's like, I want you to consciously take some time to remove your coat of armor, Put your sword down, step over the finish line, step into the new chapter of your life, not with the fight, not with the armor, not with the expectation, but let that go. And let's look at what beginning this new chapter of life means because you've been on a battlefield, you do not want to start your post-divorce life, all ready for battle.

Karen Covy Host: 33:53

But what would you say to the person who says but you know, my children are six and eight years old, or eight and 10, or however old they are. I can't take off that coat of armor until they're a legal age and they can fight for themselves.

Karen McMahon Guest: 34:11

I would say that's a tough choice to make. That's a long time to keep on a coat of armor. And if I am prepared for battle, what did they say if I'm a hammer, everything I look at as a nail. Sure, if I'm prepared for battle, and I've seen it 1000s of times. She did he said and so this gets into what you and I do as coaches it's like, Okay, what's the fact and what's the fiction? The fiction is this whole story of why and how it was all planned and how it's purposeful For these reasons, and it's like actually, he showed up a half hour late. He happens to be late as long as you've known him or he didn't show up at all or she said that thing to the kids. about you. And she always says things to the kids about you. And so then you get to say, Okay, let me sit down with my kids. Tell me what mommy said, how did that make you feel? What questions do you have? How can we talk about this? Let's  teach our children. What a healthy relationship looks like. Let's ask more than we tell right two ears, one mouth, let's invite them into dialogue. Let's understand what their story in their head is. Let's teach them the difference between fact and fiction. Fact is what happened fiction is your opinion, your story, your die inner dialogue about it, fiction doesn't count only the facts count when we go there. And we stay in that safe space and we teach our children that you will raise emotionally intelligent boundary badass children, who you'll be so proud of the relationships, the intimate relationships, the way that they engage with you, you will have taken all of your pain and suffering. And you would have used it to fuel these beautiful human beings in the world. And you will have broken generational chains of all of that abuse by teaching them a better way.

Karen Covy Host: 36:28

And that is amazing. And I can't think of a better way to end the conversation than that. Although I have to tell you, I could talk with you for hours. And I think I just might have to have you back.

Karen McMahon Guest: 36:42

Well, I would love to come back. And I love having you on my show as well, Karen.

Karen Covy Host: 36:46

So this has been so helpful and so enlightening. Thank you so much. Where can people find you if they want to follow up with you?

Karen McMahon Guest: 36:55

So Journey Beyond Divorce. We have a podcast that's been out since 2016 With over 300 episodes. So feel free to listen as podcasters and journeybeyonddivorce.com is our website, we have a new free program coming out. It's called Evict Your Difficult Spouse From Your Mind and it talks about your mental space and how to renovate and renew and redecorate it with your thoughts, your values, your feelings. Anyone going through a high conflict situation could benefit from that. We also have a boundary program and other programs that you can find out about on the website.

Karen Covy Host: 37:33

And I really I encourage anyone who's watching this or listening to it to check out journey beyond divorce. Karen, you are a wealth of amazing resources. Thank you again for being here. And for those of you who are listening for those of you are watching, if you like what you heard, if you like what you see, please do me a big favor. Like subscribe to the podcast, subscribe to the YouTube channel. It makes a world of difference. It enables me to continue to bring to you amazing guests like Karen McMahon. So Kieran thank you and again, I look forward to seeing you all again and speaking with all of you again next time

Head shot of Karen Covy in an Orange jacket smiling at the camera with her hand on her chin.

Karen Covy is a Divorce Coach, Lawyer, Mediator, Author, and Speaker. She coaches high net worth professionals and successful business owners to make hard decisions about their marriage with confidence, and to navigate divorce with dignity.  She speaks and writes about decision-making, divorce, and living life on your terms. To connect with Karen and discover how she can help you, CLICK HERE.


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